Perfume Notes : Tuberose and Tuberose Absolute

tuberose3

Tuberose, or Rajnigandha as it’s called in Hindi, is my mother’s favourite flower. In Delhi, one of my father’s friends, when invited for dinner, would bring a bouquet of fresh tuberoses for my mother as a thank you. And then for the next day or so, a cool elusive smell would float in the living room – sweet, dewy and incredibly beautiful.That is my first memory of smelling tuberoses and it has been my favourite flower too, since.

I have realized that a scent experience can never be objective. And I am not just referring to individual differences in perception. The adjectives attributed to a scent seem to be heavily influenced by familiarity as well as cultural associations. I used to be puzzled by the discrepancies between various scent descriptions, but I have finally made sense of atleast some of them. One of them is the smell of tuberose. I associate tuberose with the cool night breeze in Bangalore. Wafting in from the balcony, mixing with the scent of tuberoses and the sundry conversations on the diwan. Thus, I have always described tuberose as ‘cool’ while many perfume bloggers describe its scent as warm. Neither is inaccurate.  Associations, personal and cultural, act as a sort of magnifying glass. Or as a seive. Clinging to or magnifying the different nuances of a smell.

Indian Tuberose Absolute smells densely sweet. Green, sweetly like condensed milk, it can be a little cloying, unlike the more crystalline sweetness of the freshly cut flower. Yet, the absolute retains a complexity that could probably allow it to stand alone as a perfume. I haven’t tried this, but I imagine that if I crushed a stalk of tuberose, leaves, stem and all, it would smell more like the first whiff of the absolute. There is also an added hint of milk and a warm sensuality that is even more pronounced on the skin than on paper. After a few minutes on my skin, tuberose absolute smells considerably less green- sweeter, softer and more reminiscent of the olfactory memory of my favorite flower. Not quite touching its soaring quality, yet mysterious, haunting and beautiful.

Tuberose absolute is used as a middle note in perfume. My favorite use of this note is in Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle. The camphorous, menthol-like beginning, though unpleasant to many, serves to highlight the distinct coolness of the tuberose and sets the stage for the dewy sweetness that follows.

Picture Credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buttersweet/47560433/ via Creative Commons


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7 comments

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